Former Westover star Keion Miller races down the sideline to score on a blocked extra point in the first half of Saturday's 16-13 ASU win against Morehouse. (Reginald Christian/Albany State University)
BY ROBINNS EXUME
SPECIAL TO THE HERALD
ATLANTA — Albany State knew that it needed to make plays on defense in order to pull out a win Saturday night against Morehouse.
The Rams — who officially earned back their “Dirty Blue” nickname following last week’s win against Lane — got more than just good defense as the unit held the opposing offense down most of the night and even found the end zone to beat the conference rival Tigers, 16-13.
“We just got it done. That is what we are supposed to be doing,” Albany State head coach Mike White said after watching the “Dirty Blue” hold one the nation’s top rushing attacks down all night. “We talked about this, (how) it was going to come down to the fourth quarter. We can’t get caught up in the hoopla, we had to play defense. What a great job pulling this out.”
Both teams struggled to move the ball as each defense dominated early in the opening quarter, which ended, 0-0, as the Rams did a superb job limiting the Morehouse rushing attack to 22 yards right out of the gate.
Morehouse would, however, move the ball methodically down the field in its opening possession of the second quarter. Running back Thomas Williams would culminate the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run after receiving a well-timed pitch from quarterback Donnay Ragland on an option play.
But the Tigers wouldn’t even make it to the ensuing kickoff before the Rams could respond.
Former Westover star Keion Miller would block the extra point attempt and run it back the other way for a two-point conversion, leaving the score, 6-2, early in the second frame.
Albany State (4-3) would soon capitalize on its new-found momentum as quarterback David Kooi would lead his team down the field with a mix of quick passes and alert scrambles to put the Rams deep in Morehouse territory.
Rams leading rusher Nathan Hoyte, who finished with 111 yards on 22 carries, capped the drive when he sliced through the Morehouse defense and into the end zone to put Albany State up 9-6.
The Rams’ defense limited Moorehouse (2-5) to 54 yards on the ground in the first half.
“We worked hard all week preparing for the inside zone. We just went out there and had to execute,” Albany State linebacker Tavarius Washington said.
The defensive unit would begin the second half in more of an offensive mood as a pair of turnovers started to change the flow of the game.
First, safety Dexter Moody would step in front of a Ragland pass and outrace the offense into the end zone to give the Rams a 16-6 advantage following the extra point.
“Coach put us in the perfect defense for the perfect play, so as long as we stick to our routes, the plays will come for us.” Moody said
On the ensuing Morehouse possession, Washington, who led the way with 15 tackles, would scoop up a Ragland fumble, break a couple of tackles and give his team possession inside Morehouse territory.
The turnover would not result in any points for the Rams but it stopped a promising Tigers drive, keeping them off the scoreboard.
Morehouse would redeem itself on its next possession as it completed a 13-play drive with a six yard touchdown run by Antoine Easterling.
That’s when the ASU defense really buckled down.
Nursing a three-point lead after giving the ball back to the Tigers late in the game, the Rams would come up huge as a desperation scramble by Ragland would fall short of the first down on fourth down, giving ASU its third straight win after opening the season 1-3.
Kooi was a big reason why as he was once again solid after a shaky start to the season. During a mostly run-oriented game plan, he Florida Atlantic transfer threw for 84 yards and rushed for 29 more.
Albany State held on despite being outgained, 352-237, and losing the time of possession battle by five minutes.
White said he credited his defense for that. Plus, all he was worried about was the scoreboard.
“We just trying to keep ourselves in the middle of the road. We can’t get sidetracked,” he said. “We know if we continue to win, we will go where we want to go.”
The Rams will look to extend their win steak to four when ASU hosts Clark Atlanta for its Homecoming game next week.